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Types of Trial in Criminal Cases

The primary goal of criminal law is to protect society from criminals and lawbreakers. To that end, the law issues punishment threats to potential lawbreakers as well as attempts to make actual offenders suffer the prescribed punishment for their crimes. As a result, criminal law, in its broadest sense, includes both substantive criminal law and procedural criminal law.

Our legal system's criminal law is primarily contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, which went into effect on April 1, 1974. The Criminal Procedure Code of 1973 contains 37 Chapters, 484 Sections, and two Schedules. The offenses are classified in the First Schedule, and several forms are included in the Second Schedules.

A trial is a search for truth. For all engaged in it, the task is reconstruction of past events, across all kinds of entrapments and startling contradictions. Evidence, methodology, Law, Rules, and above all, men, are, amongst the multitude of social variables-the decisive factors of the kind of perfection that could be had in such recreation of events or events. Philosophically speaking, a trial, in an effort to discover "what had really happened", is a simulation of the event, which took place, way back in the past.

A trial could be this or could be reduced to a dull, legalistic jargon, as abhorring as bureaucratic Jargon, depending on the different permutations and combinations of the elements involved in it. It is thus left to the trial Judge to evoke the help and participation of the different agencies, in an effort to resolve the varied problems.After the trial in a criminal case is over and the offender is found guilty and convicted for a particular crime the sentencing process starts. The Judge is expected to weigh various aspects as the modern penology requires that the elements of reformation , deterrence , prevention and retribution should be kept in mind by the Judge .

He also has to take care that the punishment should be severe enough to deter but not too severe to be brutal and should be moderate enough to be human but not too moderate to be ineffective . It has to be designed so as to reform the offender for his good and for the good of the society , so the Judge while pronouncing the sentence has to maintain a delicate and nice balance .

This research is on the different types of Trials in Criminal Cases with reference to The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 and several Landmark Judgements of Supreme Court and High Courts.

Criminal Trial

The word "trial" is not defined anywhere in the Criminal Procedure Code, however, it means a commonly understood stage of trial which begins after framing the charge and ends with the conviction or acquittal.In simple words, trial can be defined as a formal examination of evidence by a judge, typically before a jury, in order to decide guilt in a case of criminal or civil proceedings.

Criminal trial is designed to resolve accusations levied (usually by the State) against a person accused of a crime. The rights afforded to criminal defendants are typically broad. The rules of criminal procedure provide rules for criminal trials. A criminal trial can be understood by the procedural understanding of the functioning of criminal courts wherein, it is a stage that begins after framing the charge and ends with conviction or acquittal. In India the system of jury has long been abolished. A criminal trial however is the analysis and examination of Evidence in order to either convict or acquit the alleged accused.Criminal trials in India are conducted as per the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

Case Name Citation Provisions Judgment
Bipinchandra Parshotpamdas & others V. State of Gujarat (2002) 1 GLR 319
Judgment dated:-24 December, 2001
S. 40(1) Gujarat Municipalities  Act 1963 Bench: D Dharmadhikari, RR Tripathi

This Case discussed the term 'detention in jail during trial'.

The word "tried" and "trial" appears to have no fixed or universal meaning. No doubt, in quite a number of sections in the Code to which our attention has been drawn the words "tried" and "trial" have been used in a sense of reference to a stage after the enquiry. That meaning attaches to the words in those Sections having regard to the context in which they are used.
Bakshi Ram And Ors. vs Emperor AIR 1938 All 102, 173 Ind Cas 663
Judgment dated:- 1 October, 1937
S.408 of Criminal Procedure Code Bench: Iqbal Ahmad,Judge Allahabad High Court

The learned Counsel for the appellants referred to the definition of the word "trial" in Stroud's Judicial Dictionary, Edn. 2, p. 2097. The word "trial" is defined as"the conclusion, by a competent tribunal, of questions in issue in legal proceedings, whether civil or criminal."Code defined as meaning "the proceedings, taken in Court after a charge has been drawn up and includes the punishment of the offender." The word "trial" in the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1898 as amended by Act No. 18 of 1923, has been used in a restricted sense and not in the larger sense contended for by the learned Counsel for the appellants. It may be that in ordinary parlance and in certain statutes the word "trial" is a word of wide import, but the question that we have to consider is, what is the correct interpretation to be put on that word having regard to the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1898.

Types of Trial in Criminal Cases
The trial of the accused in the Indian Criminal Law is divided through the punishments of the said committed offense. The Trial of the accused for the offense committed by him is divided into four types:
  1. Session Trial
  2. Warrant Trial
  3. Summons Trial
  4. Summary Trial

Sessions Trial

If the offense committed is punishable with more than seven years of imprisonment or Life imprisonment or Death, the trial is to be conducted in a Sessions court after being committed or forwarded to the court by a magistrate.

(Sec 225-237 deals with trial of warrant cases by a Court of Session.)

Procedure for Session Trial
A trial is initiated by the prosecution who tries to prove the guilt of the accused through evidence. Section 225 of the Code lays down that the case of prosecution shall be conducted by a Public Prosecutor where the trial is before a Court of Session. As per section 226 of the Code requires a public prosecutor to open his case by describing the charges against the accused and must also state the evidence through which the prosecution will prove the guilt of the accused.

An accused may be discharged at the initial stage of a sessions' trial. Section 227 empowers the Judge to discharge an accused if after consideration of the documents and records submitted against the accused and after hearing the prosecution and accused, the judge finds that there is no sufficient ground to proceed against the accused.

Under section 229 of Cr.P.C. an accused may plead guilty before the Court and upon such pleading, the Court on his discretion may convict the accused.

Where the accused refuses or does not plead guilty, the Court is required to fix a date for the examination of witnesses. And on such date, the Court shall take the evidence which may be produced by the prosecution. A witness will be examined orally. A judge under section 231(2) may defer the cross-examination of any witness and may also recall any witness for further cross-examination.

Under section 232 of the Code, an accused can be acquitted if the Court after hearing both the parties and considering all the evidence, considers that there is no evidence which proves the commission of the alleged offence by the accused. The accused in his defence may apply for an issue of any process to compel the attendance of any witness or production of any documents. A Judge is required to consider all such applications but can also refuse it if the Judge has reasons to believe that such application is vexatious or is made for the purpose of defeating the ends of justice.

A Court after hearing the arguments shall pronounce the judgment under section 235 of the Code. An accused may be either acquitted or convicted. The acquittal will be done as per the procedure embodied under section 232 but the judgment for conviction will be pronounced in accordance with section 235. A judge shall pass the sentence of conviction according to law.

Case Name Citation Provisions Judgment
Bhopal Singh And Ors. vs The State Of Rajasthan 2001 CriLJ 912 2001 (1), WLN 166 Article 226, Sections 225, 301 and 302 of Crpc By way of this petition under Article 226 of the Constitution, first and second petitioners, the parents of deceased Dr. Bhanwar Singh, who is alleged to have been murdered on 15-3-1987, has challenged the constitutional validity of Sections 225, 301 and 302 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. They claim the right to conduct the prosecution against the accused persons by a lawyer of their choice and not by a Public Prosecutor appointed under a spoil system.
Kanti Bhadra Shah v. State of West Bengal 2003 AIR (SC) 1900 Section 227 and 228 Crpc The Magistrate issued process to the accused and after hearing them a charge was framed against them for the said offences. While framing the charge the Magistrate had as per order dated 6.3.1999, dismissed the petition filed by the accused for discharging them. Appellants thereafter moved the High Court for quashing the charge.
Sushil Ansal v. State Through CBI Judgement dated:- 11 September 2001
2002 CriLJ 1369, 95(2002) DLT623, 2002 (63) DRJ 585
Cr.PC 319, 227,228,397,162 
IPC 338,336
Bench: Chopra, J.
It was held that an order of discharge may be passed only where the Court is almost certain that there is no prospect of conviction and that the time of the Court need not be wasted by holding a trial. The Court while discharging an accused is required to record the reasons for such discharge.
Century Spinning & Manufacturing Co 1971 AIR 1021, 1970 SCR (2) 854
Judgement dated:-27 February, 1970
  Bench:- Shah, J.C.
The Court in the case of Century Spinning & Manufacturing Co. explained the importance of the bare words 'there is no sufficient ground for proceeding' used in section 227. These words mean that no reasonable person could come to the conclusion that there is ground whatsoever to sustain the charge against the accused.

Warrant Trial

Warrant case includes offence punishable with the death penalty, imprisonment for life and imprisonment exceeding two years. A trial in a warrant case begins either by filing an FIR in a Police Station or by filing it before a Magistrate.

(Sec 238-250 deals with trial of warrant cases by magistrates.)

Procedure for Warrant Trial
Section 207 CrPC:  On the institution of any warrant case the accused must be provided with a copy of the police report and other documents when the accused appears or is brought before the Magistrate at the beginning of the trial.

Discharge of accused on baseless charge (Section 239):
The Magistrate shall consider every report on receipt of the police report and other documents and making it available to the accused. He shall be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard to the accused and the prosecution, the magistrate will investigate the accused if necessary. If the magistrate finds that the allegation against the accused is baseless, he shall acquit the accused under section 239. He will also investigate the prima facie of the case.

Framing of charges (Section 240):
If the Magistrate is of opinion that there is ground to believe that the accused has committed an offense and is competent to try such offense which in his opinion may sufficiently punish the accused. Then the charge will be framed against the accused in writing and the trial will start.

Evidence for Prosecution (Section 247):
If the accused denies to be guilty and claims to be prosecuted, the Magistrate shall fix the date for examination of the witnesses u/s 247.

Statement Of Accused (Section 313):
Under Section 313 CrPc accused is examined to explain the circumstances appearing in evidence of the case against him. During the examining of the accused the questions and answer which given is recorded.

Evidence for Defense (Section 243):
Under section 243 of the prosecution witnesses, the defense witnesses are produced by the accused, the expenses on coercing the appearance of the witnesses shall be borne by the accused.

Argument and Judgement:
The last two stages consist of argument and the judgement by the Magistrate. The argument is when the defence complete with their evidence, and Prosecutor sum up the case and the accused or his lawyer has to rely on it. After the argument, the next stage is acquittal or conviction of the accused by the Magistrate.

The court was moved and a Division Bench of this Court set aside the order of commitment and sent back the case to the Court below with a direction to try the same in accordance with the procedure laid down for the trial of a warrant case on the ground that there was no ground for issuing process under Section 331/34 I.P.C. which was the only section by reason of which the case was committed to the Court of Session.

After the case thus went back on remand to the Learned Magistrate notices were issued to the accused persons for their appearance and pursuant to such notice the petitioner Santosh Dey appeared before the Learned Magistrate. The examination of the complainant in the case under Section 244 Cr. P.C. thereafter started on 5-11-81, but the same could not be concluded as an application was filed on behalf of the defence challenging the competency of the learned Advocate Shri A. P. Chatterjee to conduct the case of the complainant. The matter went up to the Supreme Court and in the process six years rolled on.

Case Name Citation Provisions Judgement
Rajendra Singh And Anr. vs State Of Uttar Pradesh AIR 1960 All 387, 1960 CriLJ 857 Sections 236,423, 237 and 238 Crpc The court stated that on the basis of some facts proved by the accused in defense it is justifiable enough to alter the charges to S. 403. The court believed that by proving that the accused was having dishonest intention at the time of delivery of goods is establishing the offence under S.403 and the court also held that by altering the charge to S.403 the court is not changing the basic nature of offence.
Manakshi Bala vs Sudhir Kumar (M.K. Mukherjee 1994 SCC (4) 142, JT 1994 (4) 158 Sections 239, 240, 173 of Cr.PC By  the time the petition came up for hearing before the High Court, the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ludhiana had taken cognizance upon the charge-sheet and, after hearing the parties, framed charges under Sections 406 and 498-A of the Indian Penal Code against all the accused persons. As they had pleaded not guilty the Magistrate had also fixed a date for recording of prosecution evidence. Before, however, evidence could be gone into, the High Court took up the petition for final hearing, along with another petition which the accused respondents had subsequently filed under Section 482 CrPC for setting aside the charges, and quashed the entire proceeding including the charges framed against the accused by a common order. Hence these two appeals.
Santosh Dey vs Smt. Archana Guha And Anr. (1992) 2 CALLT 1 HC Section 245(3) of Crpc The court was moved and a Division Bench of this Court set aside the order of commitment and sent back the case to the Court below with a direction to try the same in accordance with the procedure laid down for the trial of a warrant case on the ground that there was no ground for issuing process under Section 331/34 I.P.C. which was the only section by reason of which the case was committed to the Court of Session. After the case thus went back on remand to the Learned Magistrate notices were issued to the accused persons for their appearance and pursuant to such notice the petitioner Santosh Dey appeared before the Learned Magistrate. The examination of the complainant in the case under Section 244 Cr. P.C. thereafter started on 5-11-81, but the same could not be concluded as an application was filed on behalf of the defence challenging the competency of the learned Advocate Shri A. P. Chatterjee to conduct the case of the complainant. The matter went up to the Supreme Court and in the process six years rolled on.

Summons Trial

If the offense committed is punishable with less than two years of imprisonment, it is taken as a summons case. In respect of this offense, it is not necessary to frame charges. Summon is issued by the Magistrate to the accused under section 204(1) (a) of Cr.P.C, 1973. "Summon case" means a case relating to an offense, not a warrant case. The procedure to deal with such matters is provided in section 251 to 259 of Cr.P.C, 1973 which is not as serious/formal as other trials (Session trial, warrant case instituted on the police report and warrant cases instituted otherwise than on police report).

(Sections 251-259 provides the procedure for trial of summons cases by magistrates.)

Procedure of trial in summon-cases
Under section 251 courts shall ask the accused whether the accused pleads guilty.section 252 and 253 needs to comply for conviction on such plea of guilty.

Conviction on plea of guilty
Section 252 and 253 provides conviction on the plea of guilty. Section 252 provides plea of guilty in general and section 253 provides plea of guilty in case of the petty cases. In case the accused plead guilty, the answer is affirmative. In accordance with law, the court will record the plea in the exact words of the accused on the basis of which the accused can be convicted on the Court's discretion. If not affirmative then the court needs to proceed further with Section 254.

If the accused pleads guilty, and the charges against him do not constitute any offense then mere plea will not amount to the conviction of the accused. As the magistrate has the discretion to convict on the plea or not, if on plea the accused is convicted than the magistrate shall proceed according to section 360 otherwise hear the accused on the question of sentence and sentence him according to law. If the plea of guilty is not accepted than magistrate shall proceed according to section 254.

Procedure if the accused not convicted on plea
Section 254 provides about both prosecution and defense cases if the accused not convicted on plea under section 252 and 253.

Prosecution case
The magistrate will hear the accused and take all the evidence. In the hearing, the prosecution will be given a chance to open its case by putting facts and circumstances which constitute the case and by revealing the evidence which he relied upon to prove the case. The magistrate on the application of the prosecution, serves summons to any witness to attend and to produce any document or thing.

The magistrate will prepare the memorandum of the evidence according to section 274. Same as other trials in summon cases also the magistrate will comply with section 279 i.e., interpretation of evidence to the accused and 280 i.e., recording of the demeanor of the witnesses.

Hearing of the defence:  (Defense Case)
After the prosecution evidence under 254 and examination of defense under section 313, in the continuance of this, the court will proceed with the defense hearing under section 254(1. In the hearing the defendant will be asked to testify against the prosecution evidence.

Failure of hearing of the accused in any case will amount to the fundamental error in the criminal trial and it can not be cured under section 465. Evidence produced by the accused will be recorded in the same manner as in case of prosecution under section 274, 279, 280. After the submission of the evidence of the defense, he will be allowed to submit his arguments under section 314.

Acquittal or Conviction
After recording the evidence under 254 the magistrate will acquit the accused if he finds the accused not guilty. If the accused is guilty than Magistrate shall proceed according to Section 360 or 325 otherwise, sentence him according to the law

Case Name Citation Provisions Relevance
P.N. Bhattacharjee vs Shri Kamal Bhattacharjee 1994 CriLJ 2924   Bench: N Das
The Guwahati High Court observed that the complainant was making extra efforts to order summons to the witnesses and it was the duty of the magistrate to order summons to all the witnesses before giving the order of dismissal just because the witnesses did not appear.
V Narayanasamy V. Shri Ajay Chandrakar Judgment Dated:-23 March, 2011 S.259 of Criminal Procedure Code This Case discusses the Conversion of Summons trial to Warrant Trial
S. Rama Krishna v. S Rami Reddy (2008) 5 SCC 535 Section 256,256(1) Crpc According to section 256 on the date fixed for the appearance of the accused, nonexistence of the complainant will empower the court to acquit the accused unless the court has the reason to adjourn the case to some other day. Section 256(1) is also applicable in case of the death of the complainant↓. In case the representative of the dead complainant does not appear for 15 days where the defendant appeared, the defendant can be acquitted held by the Supreme Court.
Subramanium Sethuraman v. State of Maharashtra & Anr (2004) 13 SCC 324 Section 258 Crpc In summon cases on complaint, the Magistrate cannot discharge, review and recall the order of the issue of the process. There is no dropping of the case, the trial court has to conclude the trial.

Summary Trial

Those trials in which cases are disposed of speedily with a simple procedure to follow and recording of such trials are done summarily. In this trial only small cases are taken in hand and complicated cases are reserved for summon and warrant trials. Legal Provisions for summary trial are given under Section 260-265 of Cr.P.C, 1973.

Procedure of Summary Trial
Chapter XXI of the Code of Criminal Procedure begins with section 260 and ends with section 265 L, which governs summons trials. The most important objective of summary trial is to dispose of the cases speedily.

Section 262:
The procedure to be followed under summary trial is similar to the procedure specified for summon trail. If the penalty is not more than two hundred rupees, no chance of appeal will be given.

Section 264:
In each case of summary trial, if the accused is not guilty, the magistrate will record the substance of the evidence and the judgment given must also contain a brief description of the reason for coming to a particular finding.

Section 265:
Emphasizes that every such record i.e. the details mentioned in Section 263 and the substance of evidence and judgment should be recorded in the language of the court.
Case Name Citation Provisions Judgement
Pawan Kumar vs State Of Haryana And Anr AIR 1996 S.C. 3300,
1996 SCC (4) 17
Dated on: 07/05/1996
260, 264, 375, 376 of CrPC Bench: Punchhi, M.M. Paripoornan, K.S.(J)

The measure of sentence of three months impossible under the Sec.294 IPC suggests that such offence is triable summarily under Section 260 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, it being not an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term exceeding two years.
When the accused does not plead guilty, Section 264 of the Code of Criminal Procedure enjoins upon the Magistrate that he shall (i) record the substance of the evidence; and (ii) a judgment containing a brief statement of the reasons for the finding
Kadra Pahadiya And Ors. Etc vs State Of Bihar AIR 1997 S.C 3750
Dated on: 19/03/1997
206, 260, 261, 265, 320 of CrPC Bench: A.M. Ahmadi Cji & B.N. Kirpal
It was contended that having regard to the pendency of a large number of cases in criminal courts all over the country, it is essential that the infrastructure contemplated by these provisions should be put to use so that, to begin with, sufficient number of Special Judicial Magistrates and Special Metropolitan Magistrates could be appointed, without unduly burdening the exchequer, for the disposal of cases which are triable summarily under Sections 260 and 261 of the Code as well as cases which fall in table I under Section 320 of the Code (compoundable by the parties).
Shivaji Sampat Jagtap vs Rajan Hiralal Arora And The State 2007 CriLJ 122
Dated on: 11/08/2006
259, 262, 263, 264, 265 of CrPC Bench: D Bhosale
In this case court observed that the Hon'ble Bombay High Court observed that, "the succeeding   magistrate in a   case,  the procedure contemplated under section 263 and 264 of the Code in details has not been followed, and there is no need to  hold a trial de novo"

General Provisions As To Trials

An investigation is the first step taken by the police officer in any matter of offense and the culprit thereof. Inquiry includes everything done by a Magistrate, irrespective of whether the case has been challenged or not. A trial is a judicial proceeding that ends either with conviction or acquittal.

Chapter XXIV of The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 deals with the general provisions of Inquiries and trials. Inquiries and trials are just two stages out of the various stages that help in deciding the due course of a criminal nature.
Case Name Citation Provisions Judgement
Sarbeshwar Panda V State of Orissa 1997 I OLR 401, (1997) 2 Crimew 534 (Ori)
Judgement dated:-18 December, 1997
S.315(1) of Cr.PC Bench: D Misra
It is well settled that no court can compel the accused to give evidence unless there is compliance with S.315(1)(a) ie; a request in writing by the accused
Sangeetaben Mahendrabhai Patel vs State Of Gujarat & Anr Judgement Dated:-23 April, 2012 S.300 Cr.PC Bench: B.S. Chauhan, Jagdish Singh Khehar
The law is well settled that in order to attract the provisions of Article 20(2) of the Constitution i.e. doctrine of autrefois acquit or Section 300 Cr.P.C. or Section 71 IPC or Section 26 of General Clauses Act, ingredients of the offenses in the earlier case as well as in the latter case must be the same and not different. The test to ascertain whether the two offenses are the same is not the identity of the allegations but the identity of the ingredients of the offense. Motive for committing offense cannot be termed as ingredients of offences to determine the issue. The plea of autrefois acquit is not proved unless it is shown that the judgment of acquittal in the previous charge necessarily involves an acquittal of the latter charge.
Surendra Gupta vs Bhagwandevi 1996 AIR 509, 1994 SCC (4) 657
Dated on: 05/04/1994
Section 2, 221, 300 of CrPC Bench: Sahai, R.M. (J)
The appellants claimed that since they had been convicted for the offense, they were liable to be discharged. The trial court dismissed the application against which they filed revision. The High Court maintained tile order and held that the benefit of Section 300 of the Criminal Procedure Code was not available as the facts were not the same. Sub-section (1) of Section 300 CrPC bars a second trial for the same offenceSince offense remains the same the appellants cannot be tried and convicted for it once again.

The Code of Criminal Procedure provides an opportunity for the accused for fair trial and makes an effort to avoid any delay in investigation or trial. The Judge in every case ensures that the accused is given a fair opportunity of hearing and defending his case. The Code also provides for legal aid to an indigent accused who is unable to engage a lawyer in compliance with the constitutional requirements and also as required by Section 304 so that any person accused of committing an offense is not wrongly convicted and justice is served.

In this research paper, we have discussed the meaning of the term 'trial', types of Trials under Cr.PC , the procedures under these trials, some General Provisions and the related case Laws. Hoping this paper has served its purpose.

  • Chapter XVIII - Trial before a court of Session
  • Chapter XXIV - General Provisions as to Inquiries and Trials.
  • The Code of Criminal Procedure, Bare Act
Written By:
  1. Hareesh A - 2nd Yr Unitary LL.B, Kerala Law Academy Law College
  2. Andrew Mathews - 3rd Yr B.B.A LL.B, Govt. Law College Thrissur
  3. Mohammed Atheeque N - 3rd Yr B.B.A LL.B, Govt. Law College Thrissur
  4. Jayasooryan G - 3rd Yr B.B.A LL.B, Bhavans PALSAR, Kozhikode

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